Can We Get A Refund For The Stairs?

It happened pretty quickly, just like a UFO sighting, and just as rare: a Fullerton councilperson suggesting accountability. But here you see Greg Sebourn raising the embarrassing subject of the lamentable Hillcrest Park “stairs to nowhere.”

If you’ve been paying attention, you know very well by now that these rickety looking wooden “exercise” stairs are a $1.6 million waste, a genuine Fullerton-type boondoggle that nobody outside City Hall wanted; a mess compounded by what can only be called substandard materials, workmanship and incompetent oversight – and that’s being charitable.

No, Greg, we cannot get a refund and good luck finding anybody to second a motion to do a full and complete audit of this project to find out how and why the whole thing went sideways so badly.

More Pine Forest Steps Fail

In case you needed any more evidence of the slipshod way the “exercise stairs” at Hillcrest Park were built, I offer in evidence some images taken by the FFFF Construction Field Documentation Team (CFDT) that has been awfully busy lately examining the many failures at the “Pine Forest Stairs” to nowhere.

Here is what the foundations are supposed to look like:

Here is what happened at one location. The top of the caisson was too high and had to be broken out to accommodate a post or cross beam supporting the stair stringer. Unfortunately the rebar in the caisson has been exposed to rust away and eventually spall the concrete.

Here’s a location where a large chunk of the caisson has mysteriously broken off. Here there is no reinforcing steel in sight.

And finally, here’s an example of what can happen when you decide to sink a big 6″x 6″ wood post into concrete:

Apparently many of the caissons are already cracking just like this one. Are these structures even safe? Will our common seismic events cause serious problems? I’m not privy to those answers, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’m getting on those things.

And just for fun, note that the contractor reworked the top the caisson to get water to run off. This sloppy effort is going to flake off – exposing the post to a permanent puddle.

It’s hard to believe that “professionals” inside and outside of City Hall were extremely well paid to oversee this hodgepodge of construction horrors, but there you have it. $1.6 million dollars and this is the best Fullerton can do.

 

Who Was in Charge?

During our series on the ill-fated, $1.6 million dollar “exercise stairs” in Hillcrest Park, some of our Friends correctly noted the problem of the wood support posts that had been poured into the concrete caissons that hold the whole structure up. Obviously, something went wrong. Notice how none of the posts are centered on the caissons, and some are barely two inches from the outside of the concrete, leading me to wonder how they managed to fit a rebar reinforcement inside the caisson.

Something didn’t quite line up…

From the project drawings, here is how the caisson and post are supposed to be aligned. The post centers on the caisson with 4 rebars equally spaced around it. Please notice the 3″ minimum clearance from the rebar to the outside of the concrete.

Clearly the footings and posts were built incorrectly. Obviously the caissons holes were drilled in the wrong places – and the construction manager must have agreed to let this pass. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens. If the footings crack them may have to be replaced – and they weren’t built to be replaced.

This whole mess made me wonder about why the posts were sunk into the concrete in the first place – a very odd situation given that the expansion and contraction of the posts, when wet, could lead to potential concrete cracking and spalling, especially when the post is near the outer rim of the caisson.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Here is a string of e-mails from the contractor, construction manager, and the architect discussing the redesign of the caissons and posts to a hardware connection – a solution that would make the replacement of the posts significantly easier. The contractor was willing to do this and add the necessary cross bracing at no cost to the City.

Request denied.

I wonder what will happen when the concrete caissons crack, or when the posts rot out. The architect seems to think the posts will outlast the rest of the rickety framing. I wonder which will go first.

Rusty’s Trombone

Brazenly hypocritical? Check. Shiningly self-righteous? Check. Slavishly sycophantic? Check.

Here is the Director of  the OC Human Relations Council, Fullerton’s own Rusty Kennedy (in a letter to his sister’s Fullerton Observer)  simultaneously congratulating himself and his fellow professional do-gooders,  boot-licking the County Supervisors who will soon reflect upon the merits of Kennedy’s operation, and of course, denigrating all the citizens who are rightfully concerned that having several hundred homeless people imported into the vicinity of their homes, schools and businesses are misguided, etc., etc.

Of course none of this semi-literate screed is surprising. In fact it’s all old stuff – particularly the nauseating part about the death of Kelly Thomas being some sort of wake up call. From the very beginning of that saga, Fullerton’s old guard liberals were determined to make the death of Thomas at the hands of six FPD goons a homeless issue, instead of what it really was – the worst example of a police department mired in corruption, incompetence and denial.

For Rusty Kennedy in particular, this distraction was essential and based on his own self-interest. Kennedy’s crew collects income from local police departments who “partner” with him in the aftermath of one of their outrages, ostensibly to calm troubled waters, until the next crisis. He relies upon police chiefs to recommend him and his “council” to be the County’s operator of another useless organization: the OC Human Relations Commission. And that contract is reviewed periodically as part of the County’s frugality theater kabuki.

Elevators to Nowhere – The Rising Cost Hits Fullerton Directly

Here’s the final (for now) installment of the series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” documenting the sad history of the project to add a couple of elevators to the existing tower/bridge structure at the DepotRemarkably, none of our elected representatives seems the least bit curious about the downward trajectory of this project, or the ultimate tap into our Facility Capital Repair Fund, a fund that was never intended to pay for new construction, particularly for projects never needed in the first place.  

The best way of avoiding embarrassing information is not to ask embarrassing questions. It’s not their money.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

It took over five years, but the astonishingly high cost of an elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station finally hit Fullerton taxpayers directly in 2017.

The project that the public never asked for and doesn’t need was initiated based not on necessisity, but on the availability of money from Sacramento; and later, OCTA came to the funding rescue. But the delays piled up – year after year, and OCTA would no longer pay the bill. So in March, the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, came hat in hand and asked the Fullerton taxpayers for money. Lots of it. Here’s the staff report.

Notice how the various and diverse issues are all thrown together into a single sum – $600,000. We see added cost for the railroad flagging for some unexplained reason; the curiosity of “unforeseen” utilities on a well-developed site; an unknown amount to pay for the escalated cost of the elevator subcontractor; and finally, an unspecified amount to cover “additional assistant (sic) in contract administration” a nebulous term, but a category clearly meant to cover the ongoing cost of someone in the Public Works department.  The final item is particularly ironic given the amounts already contracted with private companies for construction support and management on this very small project.

The simple fact that these items are lumped together can only be explained by an attempt to obfuscate the nature and trues costs of the ongoing delay. And those delay costs are increasing even now, as the project seems to have stalled again.

— Fullerton Engineer

The Day Nothing Happened

They say the wheels of justice turn slowly. They would be right. Today a pre-trail hearing for Joe “Burt” Felz’ DUI caper was on the docket over at North Court. Joe sent his attorney to handle the matter, who promptly asked the court to continue the case to a future date. That date is June 20.

There isn’t much else to talk about, so enjoy a little photo fun courtesy of the FFFF courtroom reporting team.

Burt’s attorney, ready to represent his many upstanding clients.
The winner’s circle
Lots of activity, little progress.
KTLA requested a camera in the court room. Denied.

 

The Elevators to Nowhere – Managing The Managers

It may be expensive, but it sure is unnecessary…

Yet another in a series about the depot elevator additions by our friend, Fullerton Engineer.

There is an alarming trend in public works construction, namely the larding up of the project with costly overseers to oversee other overseers. The justification is always the same – hiring essential “expertise” to make sure the project gets done on time and under budget. Forget the irony that no one in charge really cares if a project is late, or how much it costs, although they would prefer that no one find out. But what they really care about care about is the photo-op ground breaking and the bronze plaque with their name on it.

The consequences of this trend are two. First, the cost of the project goes up. Way up. And secondly, the overdose of management is guaranteed, when something inevitably goes wrong, to diffuse accountability by the sheer numbers of people potentially responsible for the problem. 

Exhibit A for the prosecution: the completely unnecessary elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station, a project that has already skyrocketed toward $5,000,000. Yes, you read that right. $5,000,000.

When last I left off my narrative, the City had hired Woodcliff Corporation in April 2015 to build the new elevators; and it had paid Griffin Structures to make sure the thing was “constructible.”

In August of 2015 the City employed the services of Anil Verma, a civil engineer and construction manager for vague “construction support services” with a contract worth about $154,000. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Anil Verma’s scope of work is; we do know they presented two large invoices in 2016 for $55,000, even though nothing had been started except the small ADA remodel adjacent to the AMTRAK office. Regular billing began this spring and the total paid out so far as of April 2017 has been $66,000.

Anil Verma PO P002068

As if the professional services of Anil Verma were not enough to oversee this small project, the City hired yet another construction management company in March 2017 – Griffin Structures, for another $154,500. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Griffin Structure’s scope of work is, but we know that they are not replacing Anil Verma because, as noted above, the latter seems to have begun regular, monthly billings.

Griffin Structures PO P902854

Now we come to the money that must be spent on our own city staff who makes sure the overseers are properly paid and ministered to. This money popped up in a budget transfer in March, money that is now coming directly out of Fullerton’s own Capital Budget. The total identified in the staff report is a lump-sum $600,000 for various items since the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, was not kind enough to share the specific amount for what is casually referred to as “additional assistant in construction administration.”

And finally, let us not forget the amounts that will surely be billed by, and require further contract augmentation for, Hatch Mott McDonald, the original designer of these two elevator structures, for on-site walkabouts.

Speaking of inspection, back in June 2015, the City hired the “as-needed” good offices of Smith-Emery, a construction testing/inspection lab. The contract is for just under $50,000, which is an awful lot of money for materials testing on a couple of elevator towers; so we’ll just have to trust our City public works department that the money will be well-spent. Our city council certainly trusts them.

Smith Emery PO #P001989

— Fullerton Engineer

Elevators to Nowhere – The Expensive Death March

Here is the latest installment in a series by our Friend, Fullerton Engineer, describing the sad story of the ruinously expensive elevator additions at the Fullerton train station.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

In my previous installments I described a project that nobody outside City Hall wanted or needed, a project that would never have been contemplated without State transportation grant monies, and that had been “designed” under a 2012 contract that had ballooned to a jaw-dropping $460,000 – including a mysterious increase of 28%. The engineer – Hatch Mott McDonald completed their efforts in 2014, per their purchase order billing record. And there the project sat for a year.

Hatch Mott MacDonald PO P001258

Why? The answer is not immediately forthcoming and naturally the public wasn’t informed; but the cause of the delay can be reasonably inferred from the staff report accompanying the request to award the construction contract to Woodcliff Corporation in April, 2015. For the first time we read that the OCTA is going to authorize a shift of a million dollars from transportation parking funding – money, presumably, needed to actually build the project. And we may surmise that without the funding, money spent on the engineering/design work, money authorized over three years earlier, would have been wasted.

Please observe the complete lack of transparency in the staff report, and the omission of any history that would indicate that staff and the city council in 2011-12 had committed the City to this project without adequate funding.

And note that the staff report lazily repeats the casual assertion of increasing train ridership as the justification for the project, but offers no data to substantiate the need.

The report does indicate worrisome information. The low bid, by Woodcliff is an alarming 22% over the estimate. But remarkably, this fact does not faze city staff at all, who nevertheless recommend award; nor does it alarm our city council who approved this fiasco unanimously. Staff even admits that there are potential cost savings that could be realized if the project were rebid. But nobody cared.

What the public is also not told is that toward the end of the design completion in 2014, a firm called Griffin Structures was given $6000 to provide “constructibility” services, a function that questions the competency of both the designer and the contractor whose job it is to design and build these elevators.

Griffin Structures – Constructability Review PO P001678

Remember the name Griffin Structures. You haven’t seen the last of it.

 

 

Dan Hughes is a Liar

Disney Danny.

Fullerton Police Chief and current Cast Member Copper at the Walt Disney Corporation Danny Hughes was compelled to testify at a nuisance hearing today, 24 April 2017, at Fullerton City Hall.

During the hearing he was asked, under oath, about his involvement in the Joe Felz DUI disaster. According to an article in the Voice of OC, Hughes claimed that Felz was afforded some sort of “objectivity” by the orders he issued to his officers that night. He also had some choice words about Fullerton. Let’s go to the audio (transcribed below without his “uhs”):

“When there is a, especially in the city of Fullerton, where there is somebody, whether it be a City Council Member or in this particular case the City Manager, those types of incidents are gonna, what I would describe, blow up. No matter what that decision is made regarding the outcome of that case there there will be allegations and conspiracy theories and all sorts of information that comes from that. So, uh, generally speaking the supervisor would notify a Lieutenant, that Lieutenant would notify the Captain, the Captain would generally either make the decision or contact me.”

Allegations and Conspiracy Theories. How quaint. That’s almost as cute as when Pat McKinley tried blaming the Kelly Thomas protests on “outside agitators”.

Let me break this down for former Chief Hughes and the cops in the audience.

That same “If you aren’t a criminal so what are you afraid of?” maxim that you all love so much? It applies double to you. Our fair residents have no reason to trust the FPD after the years and years of corruption and corrupt officers that just can’t help themselves from turning to the dark side. Bad Apples you say? Maybe, but I don’t see any heroes stepping up to put them down. I don’t see officers testifying against their corrupt allies. My inbox isn’t exactly brimming with HeroMail™ regarding what needs to change on the inside. Maybe if that blue wall of silence didn’t protect violent felonious acts and sexual predators we wouldn’t feel the need to make “allegations” about your culture of corruption.

Further to the point the Felz incident has nothing to do with the outcomes of a “case” but rather with the circumspect treatment at the scene of a crime. Nobody cares if everybody on city staff was called that night because what matters is that AFTER the calls were made the officers on the scene opted to not do their jobs be it by choice or by following possibly illegal orders.

Hughes stated in his own memo that Felz smelled of alcohol and yet nobody made sure that the situation was beyond reproach by administering a breathalyzer. Felz was treated differently than the thousands of drunks that are arrested yearly here in Fullerton and that’s how you end up with “allegations” and “information that comes from that”.

As for the “conspiracy theories” comment? The idea that Hughes was complicit in a Felz cover-up isn’t the stuff of conspiracies as that’s just simple deductive reasoning. THIS is a Conspiracy:

Still more believable than Hughes’ version of events on 09 Nov 2016

Exit Question: In the above audio Hughes claims the following:

“So, uh, generally speaking the supervisor would notify a Lieutenant, that Lieutenant would notify the Captain, the Captain would generally either make the decision or contact me.”

I believe the Watch Commander from Hughes’ own memo above was Lieutenant Andrew Goodrich. So was protocol and the chain of command, generally speaking, broken when Lieutenant Goodrich called Hughes and not his Captain? And if so, why?